De Halve Maan had a logistics problem. The brewer’s bottling facility in Bruges, Belgium was 3 kilometers ( 1. 9 miles)
from its production plant. The company’s large
tanker trucks weaved through the narrow streets of
the medieval city to transport beer to the bottling
facility, creating operating inefficiencies at a time of
increased demand for its beer.
Moving either facility wasn’t an option. The
brewery has a long history in its present location,
and there was no room to build an adjacent bottling
plant. Instead, Xavier Vanneste, owner and managing director of De Halve Maan, took a different
route. His company built an underground pipeline
to transport the beer.
“People thought it was a joke,” Mr. Vanneste says.
“Nobody thought it would really be possible to do
something like that.”
Yet the five-year, € 4 million project was com-
pleted on time and on budget in August—thanks
to a project team that effectively managed a con-
stant flow of risks, requirements and stakeholder
concerns. The planning phase alone lasted nearly
four years, as the project team engaged with tech-
nical and legal experts to ensure such a pipeline
was even feasible.
The most basic risk involved the beer: It had
to remain tasty and safe to drink. So the team
relied on rigorous testing by the company’s beer
engineers to determine how pipeline materials,
sanitation and pressure would impact the beer.
A Belgian brewery went underground for an
unprecedented expansion project.
No changes were made, so the testing validated
the team’s original decision-making.
On the construction side, the brewery engaged
engineers and public works officials. “You have
to talk about what technology is being used, what
underground drilling techniques are available, the
track that will be followed and the eventual obstacles you will meet. That’s one big technical point,”
Mr. Vanneste says.
The team examined previous projects to
determine how existing infrastructure would
impact where to dig and how to install the pipeline, he says.
“We decided on a track that was quite deep—the
average depth is more than 2 meters, and at some
beer] was a
—Xavier Vanneste, De Halve
Maan, Bruges, Belgium